Great gifts for grads

BECKY BARWIG displays the quilt she made as a high school graduation gift for her daughter, Sarah. Barwig used T-shirts from Sarah’s school career that illustrate her activities. Sarah will graduate from Findlay High School on Saturday. (Photo by Sara Arthur)

BECKY BARWIG displays the quilt she made as a high school graduation gift for her daughter, Sarah. Barwig used T-shirts from Sarah’s school career that illustrate her activities. Sarah will graduate from Findlay High School on Saturday. (Photo by Sara Arthurs)


Graduation from high school is a rite of passage and a time of celebration and parents often want to mark the occasion with a special gift.

After seeing a quilt someone had made as a graduation gift a few years ago, Betty Barwig decided that was what she wanted to present to her daughter, Sarah, when she graduated from Findlay High School.

The quilter whose work Barwig had admired said she would help Barwig when she was ready to make one of her own, and Barwig contacted her this winter. The other woman gave Barwig directions over the phone and Barwig, who had never made a quilt before, successfully created a quilt made from old T-shirts from throughout Sarah’s school career.

The T-shirts in the quilt cover a range of Sarah’s activities. The first square in the quilt illustrates the “Princess Club” because when Sarah was a little girl she liked Disney princesses. The shirts also illustrate all of her activities at St. Michael School and then at Findlay High School. At Findlay High she participated in track and cross country and at St. Michael she participated in volleyball and was a member of a youth group.

Barwig even found T-shirts from when Sarah was a small child in grade school that she had saved and was able to incorporate into the quilt.

She estimated that the project took between 40 and 50 hours of work.

She felt inspired and when she saw the quilt the other quilter had made she thought “what a labor of love and a gift of love.” She wanted to make something Sarah would enjoy rather than something that would just sit in a box in her attic.

Barwig didn’t try to make the gift a surprise, and Sarah, who graduates Saturday, has seen it. In fact, she was able to offer her opinions about which T-shirts she wanted included.

Sarah is Barwig’s only child and preparing for her graduation has been “a special time,” Barwig said. Sarah will attend the University of Dayton.

Barwig said she may make other quilts in the future. It was time-consuming, and she started the project in early March and only recently finished it. She received assistance from a professional quilter who did some of the work.

The finished quilt is 85 inches by 95 inches.

Becky Kairys’ son, Nick, also graduating from Findlay High School, will be given a quilt, too.

“We saved all his T-shirts from when he was a little boy,” Kairys said.

A friend who is a quilter made a king-size quilt using T-shirts from hockey, baseball, track and National Honor Society.

“It’s like 42 T-shirts. … It’s beautiful,” Kairys said.

Kairys said her friend has made about six similar quilts for others in the community.

“She’s been quite busy, that’s for sure,” she said.

Nick will be attending Ohio University, which is where his older sister went to school. However, Kairys and her husband are planning to move to Florida, so she expects an emotional year.

Kairys offered ideas for gifts for others going to a graduation party. If the family knows what college the graduate will attend they could buy a bath towel in the school’s colors. Kairys’ daughter received an engraved laundry bag as a gift. She has also known people who give Pandora bracelet beads as gifts.

Kairys said parents often give their children a computer for college, and graduates who receive monetary gifts often use them to buy themselves a computer.

“Just about everybody would need one of those,” she said.

David Barkey’s daughter, Sarah, is also graduating from Findlay High School, where Barkey is a teacher. She is his youngest. Sarah’s parents are helping her purchase a computer, but there is another gift they are looking forward to.

“We’re taking a trip to France and Italy,” Barkey said.

Sarah, who has been studying French, has wanted to go to France for years. Barkey, his wife and Sarah plan to visit Paris, Marseilles, Florence and Venice.

Sarah will attend Smith College. Barkey said preparing for his daughter flying the nest is “hectic” but “also exciting.”

Another parent, Jennifer Miller, said one gift they are giving their Findlay High School graduate, Braden, is helping “as much as possible” with the cost for him to attend Taylor University.

“There is not a specific, tangible graduation gift that we are giving Braden, outside of a party with friends and family to celebrate,” Miller said. “Our gift to Braden has been providing him with a family that loves and supports him, and instilling the character qualities that will be a part of him as he moves forward with his life.”

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